Games to play indoors with a Husky-cross puppy
August 29, 2012 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I have a beautiful, fun and energetic puppy. A Husky cross (we don't know what the other half is, but it must have been small). She loves to play games. Me and my partner alternate working from home during the day. What fun games can we play with her at home, indoors, that don't distract too much from our work?

She's almost 8 months old. She loves to be out and about, and we try to take her for long walks a couple of times a day. We live in the city, but near lots of parks etc. She is great at home, chilled out and very patient. Out and about she is very energetic and loves to play with other dogs.

During the day I have to sit at my computer a lot of the time, and I worry that she gets bored. Chewy toys are great, but how about something more interactive? She seems to love game play, hide and seek, ball fetching, hunting and burying, and most of all, she loves to systematically tear stuff to shreds.
posted by 0bvious to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
That's the problem with the smart dogs, they get bored and destructive.

You can do hide and seek with bits of kibble. Or get that toy that dispenses a kibble at a time. That should keep her occupied.

Be sure to have a nice long walk in the morning and at the middle of the day. Get one of those packs that have the dog carry something for you, like a bottle of water, so she feels that she's working.

Don't underestimate the value of exhaustion in getting your puppy to mellow out and chill.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my godddddddddddddddddd LOOK AT THAT PUPPY the game you should play is hugging her so tightly she becomes a part of your body and can never leave you, ever

Also perhaps a dumb suggestion you already do, but really vigorous bouts of tug-of-war.
posted by superfluousm at 9:21 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys are great for smart dogs. Though most of them are nightmarishly loud, so it may be something you schedule in small doses.

You can get cheapie agility kits at the pet store that come with a tunnel, a little hurdle, and cones or sticks to weave through (and you could make most of those things out of household objects). You can take little agility breaks during the day.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2012

I have two terriers and the things I've found helpful to keep them distracted when they want some interaction, while on the computer is tug of war as it only uses one hand and all I have to do is waggle the toy a little and can keep reading and using the mouse. Also kick the ball, one of our dogs has trained if he drops a ball next to my bare foot and I feel it I will kick it in a distracted manner.

Use the small daily breaks to play with your dog for a few minutes, a trip to the loo or to make a coffee become a fun game of chase the dogs through the house on the way, or doing a few tricks or just patting them while the coffee brews.

Besides the usual kongs etc, I hide treats in toilet rolls for my dogs to pull apart and get, it makes a mess but they love it. With a larger dog you could wrap it in a box or something so she can tear apart things that won't get her in trouble.

Also if I pick the them up for a few minutes to see that I am doing nothing interesting and there is no food on the desk they soon loose interest. Might be harder with a husky cross to do that though.

The best thing I ever did was get a second dog so now my smarter/more annoying dog has someone else to annoy while I am working. Luckily my second dog is very long suffering and this may not be a practical solution for everyone.
posted by wwax at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

tug-of-war = yes! I got really good at having one loop wrapped around my foot so that I could tug and type at the same time.

Our favorite indoor-dog-game-of-the-moment is this: slide a broom under a large rug, laying it flat. Swoosh it around to get the dog to notice. Then - when they least expect it - turn the broom on its side so it makes the rug pop up. She jumps at it but oh! It disappears and is just the swoosing flat thing again...until it pops up again! Gah! It's neverending!

Of course, you need a big rug in the house and an easily amused/simple dog like mine.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:27 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was in grad school I had a beagle puppy who also had a crazy high level of energy. One day, while I was a the dining room table working on a paper, he came up under the table and started mouthing and chewing on my socked foot. I eventually came up with two toys/games as a result. I took all the widowed socks in the house and tied them to each other and then put the resulting sock chain on my foot. He would grab the end and tug and I would try to keep the sock on my foot. It was a ton of fun and it didn't distract too much. He did learn early on though that he could only attack the sock foot if was the special sock.

I also put a tennis ball in a sock and tied a knot in it. He would play for hours with that, both by himself and with me. He'd throw it up in the air and catch it.

Also, invest in a nylabone. That's awesome for hours and hours of happy chewing.
posted by teleri025 at 9:27 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Puppies and grown dogs get waves of energy during the day, punctuated by lots of sleeping. So short play sessions really help, as do your twice daily (hopefully very energetic) walks.

For the short play sessions I'd suggest:

1. Clicker train a trick. This should be maximum 10 minutes, and your puppy will love it. Plus be even better behaved.

2. Fetch! A great game for quickly burning off some energy. My dog is a very smart and agile one, so we do lots of fake throwing, throwing around objects, throwing the toy onto the bed (requiring leaping) etc. Fetch combined with tug of war is a pretty irresistable game for almosts all dogs . . . the dog gets the toy, you and the dog tug, and eventually you issue the "give" command so you can toss the toy again.

And for keeping your puppy and her mouthiness occupied when she's awake and you need to focus on work:

1. A Kong stuffed with frozen baby food and some treats. This will really keep your puppy occupied.

2. Raw frozen bones. Maybe a rawhide if she doesn't tend to tear pieces off and swallow them.
posted by bearwife at 9:43 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My recommendation is simular to Ruthless Bunny. I have a Vizsla, so I needed to learn about finding ways to burn energy. When she was spayed she was bonkers an actually ate a lightbulb. Now she is a good dog and comes with us on all sorts of adventures.

There is no trick to work around actual excercise. I bring my girl to the dog park, my husband hikes with her and we have a big backyard that we go outside and actually play with her, not just let her out, that leads to destructive behavior, like hole dogging and barking. So, if those needs are met, or on rainy days I do a few things.

"FIND IT" is great mental excercise. Start out in a small area and use a high value smelly treat, like hotdogs, but eventually you can extend the area, put them high, low, on the stairs. I plant them all over the house and eventually taught her to find one and then return to me where I will magically tell her to find it again, and off she goes, over and over. Its fabulous.

My 2nd suggestion is the importance of down stay. This will come in handy everywhere. Get your dog to go to their bed and stay there for a short period of time, expand on that timing and treat when they are doign it right. After a while you will have a relaxed dog that will sit by your side, or under your table. Only treat when they are not begging or look too alert. Just when they are chilling. This focus burns mental energy and really achieves some great outdoor cafe dog skills as well.
posted by brinkzilla at 10:00 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are many things you can do with a Kong toy, food, and sometimes a freezer, to keep a dog busy for hours. Try stuffing it with peanut butter and kibble, or more high-value treats, and then freezing it overnight.

.. you don't want to do this on any floor that is not easily cleaned.

Goody-ships and buster-cubes are also in the food-dispensing-toy category. Very good things.

Fetch is good. How about teaching her specific names for objects? Get the bone, get the ball, get the squeaky, get the whatever. Once you have that, you can send her for one toy, have her retrieve it a few times, send her for another one, etc. And it's different, to the dog, because the toy is different.

Also, possibly, identify objects in the house. Go to the door. Go to the couch, the kitchen, people bed, dog bed, crate, etc. When you both are home: go get [you!] Go get [partner!]

Obedience 'sit-ups' are good, like brinkzilla mentions. Down. Up to sit. Down. Up to sit. Down. Up to sit. This takes focus but doesn't do much for burning energy.

Teaching her to bark/howl/Chewbacca-noise on command may or may not be a good idea; my dog took to it so well that it's getting her to shut up that's the trick. (It does make for entertaining phone calls.)

When you have to get up for things, switch it around: sometimes she must accompany you. Other times she must stay where you have told her to stay. Or: accompany you to the kitchen for a drink, stay there while you visit the bathroom, come back to the computer with you. That's more in the control and obedience category.

One last thing which, again, is for easily cleaned floors (and not everyday): those gigantic smoked beef bones with the strips of jerky stuck to them. She'll enjoy shredding those to get to the marrow, and a good one can take hours or maybe days.
posted by cmyk at 10:07 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You should be getting up for a break from the computer five minutes for every hour anyway. (yeah, like anybody does this) Make it a point to take at least ten minutes every two hours and do vigorous activity with your dog. A fast ten minute walk or run, fetch, wrestling with the rope, jumping a small agility jump (or a broom in the kitchen)--that type of thing. See how long that much activity will hold her.

She might be the kind of dog that gets mentally tired from training and needs to rest after. In which case, spend the next two hour's worth of ten minutes training her to do a trick. Practice until she has it, then alternate with old tricks for a refresher course. Most dogs love to learn, and you can amaze and astound your friends with your bootiful smart puppy.

If you can teach your dog to distinguish between 3-4 toys, play a game of fetch in which all the toys are spread out across the room and the dog has to wait in a down-stay till you tell her which toy to get. When they're all gathered to you, pitch them across the room and then let her fetch again. Let her be patient between fetches and play with the toy she's retrieved.

Also, if she's willing to chill and be patient lying at your side, let her. Nothing's better than having a dog that will just patiently wait. My Roady is a hyper bundle of muscle, but he's learned to doze under the desk while I occasionally scratch his belly with my feet.

There's also nothing better than a dog that knows how to entertain themselves without tearing things apart. Let your dog learn to entertain herself with toys. Everyone will be happier for it. There's nothing more aggravating then a dog that demands constant attention--and it's possible to train them to be that way if you're not careful.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:57 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I second the treat-dispensing idea. My dog was super high energy and really smart, so we got her a kong ( and it kept her busy because she would spend all day trying to get out the last bit of her treat from the toy. It's not too loud (except when they lose their grip on it and it goes bouncing away) and it's time consuming!
posted by cyml at 12:23 PM on August 29, 2012

With really smart dogs you can take BlueHorse's toy retrieval game to the next level.

Teach your dog the names of her toys. Place her bunny (for example) in plain sight in the same room, ask your dog to find it. Move the toy farther away and out of sight and have her find it. Now stash a half-dozen named toys around your house and send your dog on toy quests! Keep a half-dozen treats on your desk to reward success and keep your pup occupied, body and mind, while you work.

And remember, no matter how dark and frustrating your lovely puppy is, the only reason puppies are allowed to survive to adulthood is because they are cute. She will grow up and settle down eventually. I promise.
posted by workerant at 12:44 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Frozen things for glorping. You can really layer up stuff like peanut butter and kibble inside a femur, for example ( what you choose depends on your dog's chewing. Femurs are waaaaay cheaper than kongs.)

With one foster dog, i laid in a supply of washscicles: inexpensive washclothes, spread with peanut butter, rolled into no particular shape, frozen in reconstituted inexpensive boullion. I'd use things like margarine tubs as forms. End result was a lunk of ice with that washcloth thime inside. It saved him from certain death during a phase of smartypants chewing. (he was a pibble.)

But, like everyone said: a well exercised dog is a less intrusive one. I, um, may also have been known to borrow dogs for a dog park in my yard. With permission and supervision. I've been lucky so far to own/foster animals that play well with others and to have frinds with same.

Teaching her she has her own spot and to settle on command helps too.

And, since you're home a lot, ypu will greatly reduce the pest factor by notbfeeding her from the table.
posted by nita at 7:54 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

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